Playoff time has arrived in Durham.
After a 6-8-3 regular season finish, the Wildcats prepare for the America East quarterfinal round with a matchup against the University of Maine at Bremner Field Thursday at 7 p.m.
Playoffs are always a high-stakes intense affair, but this match in particular has a few other important elements to it.
This is officially the rematch of the America East quarterfinal matchup of 2015, in which the Wildcats played Maine in Orono and were eventually defeated in penalty kicks after double overtime. This time, the Wildcats play the role as host and now have the opportunity to avenge the loss from the year before. Through the deep history, head coach Steve Welham remains focused on execution, and finishing the job this time around.
“We feel that we execute and do what we have to do, in and around that goal in the final third [referring to the overtime period] that we can have a good night [tonight].” he said.
As noted, the Wildcats and Black Bears have always played each other tight. Dating back to 2014, the two played to a 0-0 draw in double overtime. In 2015, the Wildcats fell to the Black Bears 2-1 in overtime. This season, up in Orono, UNH fell once again in the overtime frame 1-0. The theme recurring in each of these matchups, is the extra time needed to settle the score.
Welham explains that the playoff game is much different than the regular season game however, and that at any point, regardless of who tho opponent may be, one moment can change the game.
“In playoffs, it’s those one or two special moments that can change a game…we are switched on the whole time in the game,” Welham said. “For [offense], it’s about execution and finding how we can make those one or two moments ours and positive [for us].”
In the past couple of years, the America East championship tournament has proven to be an unpredictable finish. The last time a No. 1 seed went on to win the conference title was 2011, when Boston University, before they disbanded from America East, won the conference title. In 2014, UNH won the conference championship as the No. 3 seed, the first team to ever do so. With a conference as competitive as America East, any team could win any given night especially come playoff time.
“You flip a coin in this conference anybody can beat anybody. It just depends almost when you play them [and] where you play them,” Welham said. “It’s so close, it’s so wide open, but again, it’s step by step.”
Through all the parody and excitement, the Wildcats remained dialed in on the goal of getting the best of Maine, a team they have not beaten since 2011, going 0-5-1 in the years preceding. The first home playoff game at Bremner Field since 2014 provides “an opportunity to set things right a little bit,” Welham stated, as the playoff demons from last season have an opportunity to be exercised tonight. The last time the Wildcats hosted an America East quarterfinal game, they went on to win the conference championship.
It’s win or go home as the two teams will do battle once again at Bremner Field tonight at 7 p.m.